BRISTOL -- Event organizers said the Yankee Peddler Craft Fair held Friday and Saturday has been hosted off and on since 1920, or even before, at Ashbury United Methodist Church.
“Ashbury United Methodist Church puts it on as often as we can, considering covid and other events,” said Connie Schulz, co-event organizer. “It’s a great way for the community to come together. A lot of our vendors have been with us for many years. It’s an opportunity for them to sell their wares and an opportunity for the church to raise funds for our mission here and throughout the world.”
Save for major historic world events like World War II or the Great Depression, Karren Grayson, church historian, said the fair has been continuing since October 1920, if not before, as its earliest documented history was discovered in the form of a church Harvest Festival ticket. The historian said the church started as the Methodist-Episcopal Society of Forestville in 1855 with its members meeting at homes or in fields. The society formed as a church in 1864. The church building at its current location was struck by lightning in May 1900 before being rebuilt and dedicated in December the same year. Ashbury United Methodist Church has undergone several name changes in its history.
Grayson said when she took over the position of church historian she was given the documents of the previous historian. She also decided to go through old files herself in the building before happening across the ticket. Church members said they can’t know if the fall event was held before 1920, but they felt confident it was possible. They were uncertain of when it took on its current fair name.
While also serving as a historical event in the Forestville area, the fair is also known for its “cemetery boxes.” The boxes are made by the members of the church and sell quickly, said Schulz. A creation of evergreen needles, pine cones, artificial poinsettias with a bow and set in a garden box, the decorations are often placed in front of loved ones’ graves during the holiday season. The church volunteers have been creating them for at least the last 25 years.
JoAnn Bacon, member of the church, helped sell baked goods over the course of the event along with fellow member Lori Schaffrick.
“We’re excited to be back because we haven’t been able to have the fair in over a year,” said Bacon Saturday. “It’s nice to see people come back and get some things they want. What I baked has already been sold. The tables were so full.”
“Quite a bit is now gone,” said Lori Schaffrick. “it’s nice to get somewhat back to life as it used to be. We’ve cut back a bit on some of the things we’ve done but it’s nice to be back and it’s our way of making progress.”
Visitors wandered across three floors of the church perusing goods such as jewelry, quilts, knitted items and more.
“I think it’s great it started again after a year off. I’ve been coming here for years and years and I used to bring my mom when she was alive,” said visitor Janis Campbell. “It’s a way to give back and make a donation to the church. It’s a wonderful community. I got a bakery item.”
Among some of the goods available, local Boy Scout Troop 9 created wooden tealight holders.
“They started as centerpieces for your holiday table,” said Scoutmaster Chris Hoffman. “Over the years, you don’t want to sell the same thing, so we’ve evolved (holder designs).”
Troop member and Senior Patrol Leader Evan Chadeayne said troop members decorate the wood pieces by hand with holiday decorations, animals and markings after wooden bases are cut from a storm-fallen Birch tree.